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How to Use Your DSLR in Cold Weather & Shooting the Northern Lights

I’ve been in Sweden in February 2013 for watching Northern Lights and other beauties of Winter. For that I crossed the line of North Pole and went to northernmost Sweden. It’s been really cold. Polar weather is very dry but at some point you realize that everything is freezing including yourself. It’s been a challenge for me also for my Photography equipment. Before I go to Sweden I red many articles about using DSLR in extreme cold conditions and how to capture Northern Lights in that condition. This article will be another guide you’re going to read before you use your DSLR in extreme cold conditions. I have few lessons learned, suggestions and tricks to share with you. I hope they will be useful to you.

My Photography Gear

I have two Pentax DSLR cameras. Pentax K-X and Pentax K30. Pentax K-X is 3 years old and has 10k shutter count. K30 is brand new. K-X doesn’t have a Weatherproof body. K30 is equipped with Weatherproof body and 18-55 mm kit lens. K-X runs with 4x AA size battery. K30 has Li-ion battery. My other lenses are Sigma 70-300 mm AF and SMC Pentax 50 mm MF. Max aperture of 50 mm lens is f/1.8 and 18-55 & 70-300 are f/3.5. Max aperture is very important for photographing Northern Lights but we’ll get that later. Don’t forget a dust blower, cleaning cloths, separate batteries and a good bag to keep your gear warm and safe. Here is the full list of my gear that I used in Sweden.

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Just Bought Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC

I recently bought this lens for my Pentax DSLRs. I red many review and comparison posts about it and in the end Samyang comes out as the best wide angle lens both for the price and quality. It’s even better than Pentax’s own 14mm prime lens.

It doesn’t have AF but focusing is easy at the manual mode. The only tricky part is focusing to the infinity. It looks like you can turn the focus ring beyond the infinity mark so you should be looking to the ring before you set the focus at infinity.

Distortion level is quite high and should be corrected via softwares. There isn’t any sign of coma which makes this lens is great for Astrophotography. Photos are really sharp and center image quality is absolutely excellent. It also has a nice bokeh. Lens flare is an issue unless you want to add it as an effect to your photos. Lens hood is attached to the lens so you can’t remove it and plug any filter.

There aren’t so much options for the Pentax in wide angle lenses. Pentax 14mm is quite expensive and Sigma has only fish eye lenses in these range. Tokina 11-16mm is one of the best wide lens in the market but they don’t produce it for Pentax mounts. I highly recommend Samyang 14mm for your DSLR. By the way it also support Full Frame Format DSLRs.